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Cornwall Museums Partnership

A Traineeship From Home - Part One

The Trainee Curators programme was set up to diversify the cultural workforce in Cornish museums and historical sites by offering more accessible opportunities to young people. In turn, diversifying the museums audiences and using their collections more widely.

In our new mini-blog-series, we share with you a behind the scenes look at what our Trainee Curators are getting up to now they are having to work from home, due to COVID-19. You can also keep up to date with them on their Twitter Page where they share regular updates and posts.

First up is Sarah Waite of Bodmin Keep…

I’ve been working for the past few months as a Trainee Curator for Bodmin Keep: Cornwall’s Army Museum, part of a programme organised by Cornwall Museums Partnership. One of the things I was enjoying most about the traineeship was the opportunity to work directly with the collections; cleaning and packing objects, installing new displays and exploring our collections store.

However, that aspect of my job for the time being is completely obsolete. My day to day work now involves me and my laptop. The most exciting object I get to handle is my kettle, and maybe a custard cream. I never thought I’d miss the feeling of my hands slowly pruning after several hours stuck in a pair of nitrile gloves.

That being said, I have a lot of work that I can do from home, and projects which translate perfectly into a digital format. A gallery display I was curating will now be launched as an online exhibition. Souvenirs and Spoils will explore objects which were collected by soldiers, regiments and army museums to record memories about conflicts abroad.

Having a photo-based exhibition online means that I can include objects that I wouldn’t have been able to physically fit in the display case. Another unique aspect of online curating means that I can embed hyperlinks into the text which can direct the user to other webpages on our website, offering them more in-depth information on certain objects.

Working in isolation certainly requires diligence, but it also requires self-compassion. And snacks. Here are some of the ways I have approached my traineeship from home:

  1. Use your extra time not commuting to work to get in some exercise.

Since becoming house bound, I exercise before every workday to get my body and brain energised before I have to sit down in the same place for hours. The Central YMCA gym are offering free half hour exercise classes live-streamed on their Facebook page every morning at 8 am. Making sure I do one of those classes every morning makes me feel like I’ve achieved something before I’ve even started to work.

  1. Indulge in making some elaborate ‘To Do’ lists.

I love ‘To Do’ lists and now might have a slight addiction to Trello since the management at Bodmin Keep decided that our team should all start using it. It’s a site which enables you to set up ‘boards’ with multiple lists that you can continuously edit to reflect your ongoing progress. I have one which I update every morning to plan what tasks I will tackle that day. I also have a few that monitor larger ongoing projects and future plans, and also one that records completed tasks. The latter is very satisfying to watch grow.

  1. Stay connected with colleagues.

The team at Bodmin Keep have a Zoom call every morning at the same time, and then following that, I have a catch up with my line manager and Katie, our other trainee. This has been brilliant not only for making sure that I’m definitely at my desk and appropriately dressed by 10am, but it’s a constant reminder that I am working as part of a team who rely on each other. It’s easy to feel that I’m in my own world when working from home but checking in with the team reminds me that we are all in this together.

  1. Read and watch.

I’m putting in some efforts to stay updated with what is happening in our sector during this strange time. I like to keep an eye on the Museums Association’s news page as well as checking in with my favourite museums to see how they are responding to the lockdown. The Google Arts and Culture site is also brilliant for when I need a cultural fix myself and is a model of best practice for digital engagement. Ever wondered how astronauts use the toilet in space? I did. Google arts and culture will direct you to a video on the topic made by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Thanks guys.

You can follow what I’m up to on Twitter and get notified when Souvenirs and Spoils launches later this month.


-Sarah Waite

Trainee Curator, Bodmin Keep

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